Airbus has sent another signal that there are some plastic limits to its enthusiasm for advanced composites in new airliners after all.
Following John Leahy’s answers to Plane Talking‘s inquiries in Sydney on Wednesday, November 4, this item is being carried by Bloomberg:
By Sabine Pirone
Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) — Airbus SAS, the world’s largest maker
of passenger jets, said it may limit the use of composite
materials in a successor to its bestselling A320 model, a short-
haul plane that doesn’t have the same pressure to reduce weight.
“There will be composites no question, the question is the
balance.” said Jean Botti, chief technology officer for Airbus
parent European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. “On the A320
follow-on plane, the jury is still out.”
Carbon-fiber composites are about four times stronger than
aluminum, the traditional material for airplane structures, and
weigh 40 percent less. At the same time, damage to composite
components is harder to repair, and the aircraft industry is
still in its “infancy” working with the material, Botti said.
That contrasts with a century of experience on metal planes.
The longer an aircraft’s range, the more composites should
be used, Botti told journalists in London yesterday. A favorable
mix on long-range planes such as the A350 may be a 50-50 balance
between composites and aluminum, while short-haul planes may
only have 30 percent of composites, he said.
Both Boeing Co. and Airbus have been increasing the
proportion of composites as they seek to cut weight and keep
down fuel costs. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner uses 50 percent
composites, including an all-composite fuselage and wing. The
plane has been beset by delays ranging from parts shortages to
unexpected stresses in engineering tests.
Airbus’s next-generation single aisle plane may enter
service as late as 2024, and the company is maintaining close
ties with the producers of aluminum alloys as it considers the
jet’s structure, Botti said.
“Even in our team we have kept a strong foundation of
people that are still working on aluminum alloys,” Botti said.
“Only because you lose a battle, you don’t loose a war.”
Single-aisle jets, with about 100 to 200 seats, have been
the industry’s workhorses for decades. Boeing and Airbus
combined have delivered more than 9,000 narrow-body planes since
the first Boeing 737 hit the market in 1967, with some 4,500
orders still pending.
Developing a successor would cost about $10 billion, money
that both Boeing and Airbus say they will only spend if
technological breakthroughs are guaranteed on the new models.
Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, has said it won’t proceed
unless it can offer 30 percent better operating costs through
new engine technologies, aircraft design and materials.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. has abandoned plans to
build the wing of the MRJ, Japan’s first passenger jet, from
carbon fiber and will use aluminum instead. Mitsubishi, which
makes the carbon-fiber wings for Boeing’s 787, aims to have the
model in service by 2014.